Written by Mean Lean on Thursday, 04 October 2012 11:46
Arsenal are in pole position in group B after a 3-1 victory against Olympiacos. It may not have been the most convincing of performances but the players certainly deserved to take all the points.
After watching Manchester City make yet another mess of their Champions League group stage, I am certainly not going to complain about the manner of our victory last night.
The pre match line up raised my eyebrow a little Carlo Ancelotti style. I expected Mikel Arteta to miss the game after the manager spoke about an ankle problem in his pre match press conference. But instead Mr consistency started the game in the heart of the Arsenal midfield. Per Mertesacker's absence was another surprise but instead of being dropped, he was ill with some type of sickness that appears to be doing the rounds at the club. Oliver Giroud is another player that I expected to be drafted back in but he continued on the bench.
While the team lacked a bit of sharpness, a bit of confidence in their football we did have some good performers on the night.
Gervinho who kept his place in the Arsenal attack was a threat all evening. Steve Bould made a good point in the post match press conference. He mentioned that his link up play was improving and it showed on the night. He is able to receive the ball and play give and goes around the penalty area. Some of his combination play at times was pleasing. It doesn't always stick as yet but at least we are seeing progression in that area.
His goal was very good also. I love those types of strikers goals. Taking it out of your feet and drilling it low past the keeper. It was the type of shot you wished he produced late in Manchester this season. I was getting a tad frustrated before that because our players were crossing the ball without picking a man out, a strategy that I do not understand. Aimlessly swinging the ball into the box seems very inefficient when you are in such a good area of the pitch. I think I would rather go back to the Nasri days of coming back inside and waiting for the right pass than smashing it high above everyone's head to the opposition full back on the other side of the pitch.
As soon as Lukas Podolski who was in a crossing position, cut the ball back, I instantly felt like we were in a much better attacking position and Gervinho fired in our opener. His 5th goal in 7 games this season. Say what you want about Gervinho, you cannot argue with a strike rate like that. It is also a strike rate that makes him undroppable for the short term at the very least.
Gervinho's goal wasn't his only positive. He created a great chance for Cazorla who missed a wonderful chance. It was the type of chance that had it been Gervinho missing the target then we would be hearing about it today. We should stick life size photo's of Mikel Arteta in the corners of the net and ask Cazorla to pass to them. He would already have 12 goals to his name.
Gervinho also made the assist for Podolski's second half goal but before that Olympiacos had found a way back into the game just before half time. A deep cross into the Arsenal box landing in the middle of Koscielny and Vermaelen but it was Mitroglou who rose the highest to head past a diving Mannone.
If Olympiacos were finding it difficult to score before that headed goal, we looked like trying to give them a helping hand. A mix up between Mannone and Vermaelen saw the keeper pass the ball straight to one of their attackers before a superb Arteta intervention. Vermaelen was involved in another crazy bit of confusion when his pass also landed at the feet of a grateful Olympiacos attacker before the move broke down.
We looked jittery at points but also gave very little away when we were not making strange mistakes. We looked better after half time especially when Podolski's turn on Gervinho's pass and left footed shot through the keepers legs put us back in front.
Giroud and Ramsey came on with ten minutes to play and it was that combination that lead to our third. Giroud flicked on a high ball in stoppage time, Ramsey read it and sprinted through and dinked a finish over the head of the keeper. A super finish.
The moment of the match for me was when Carl Jenkinson who had yet another superb game, couldn't find a pass so he turned back and had players closing him down but then pulled out a backheel out of the blue to one of our players when the pass did not look on. Like I said previously, he looks much more assured of himself on the ball.
Kieran Gibbs had another Gibbs performance which is a compliment in itself and shows his consistency so far this season. He has been called back up to the England set up and rightly so.
Coquelin may have misplaced a few passes during the 90 minutes but his passion and commitment were once again admirable.
Not the best performance in the world but three points will hopefully give the team some more confidence and better still, we are in a great position to qualify to the knock out rounds.
I'll take that.
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